Sunday, October 11, 2009

August 24, 1975 Trenton Speedway, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Hamilton, NJ: Aerosmith/Kingfish/Poco/others

Continued research into the touring history of Bob Weir and Kingfish has uncovered a hitherto forgotten outdoor concert in the Summer of 1975 featuring the band opening for rising stars Aerosmith at an auto racing venue in New Jersey. The actual listing would be

August 24, 1975 Trenton Speedway, New Jersey State Fairgrounds, Hamilton Township New Jersey
Aerosmith/Kingfish/Poco/Slade/Nils Lofgren/Mohagany Rush/Hootchie Kootch

The concert was a Sunday afternoon event beginning at 1:00 pm. Trenton Speedway was a 1.5 mile oval track (IndyCar/NASCAR) inside the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Hamilton Township is the town right next to the capital city of Trenton, so both the Fairgrounds and and the Speedway were usually referred to as in Trenton. The ad prior to the concert is from the Bucks County Courier Times of August 15, 1975. Promoters Hollow Moon Productions apparently insisted that only 8000 people would be allowed inside the bowl of the oval track of the concert.

The promoters seemed to have underestimated the appeal of Aerosmith, whose album Toys In The Attic had been released in April and was steadily climbing the charts. The first single from the album, "Sweet Emotion," was climbing the charts, and "Walk This Way" would follow later in 1975. By the next year, an earlier single, "Dream On" had re-entered the charts, and Aerosmith was one of American's biggest rock bands. Hollow Moon productions correctly anticipated that Aerosmith could headline an 8000-ticket event, but even they must have been caught by surprise at the turnout.

As the post-mortem review from the Bucks County Courier Times on Monday (August 25, 1975) revealed (above), the concert rapidly gotten out of hand. A huge crowd stormed the chain link fence, and despite the best efforts of baseball bat wielding security staff, eventually everyone was let in for free. The problems at this concert were still being mentioned in the Courier Times the next Summer, and seem to have put a damper on big outdoor events at the State Fairgounds.

Notes on the bands
Aerosmith: Toys In The Attic, released April 1975, was Aerosmith's third album. They remain major concert headliners to this day.
Kingfish: Kingfish, with Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead and Dave Torbert of the New Riders, had come together after the Dead went on a touring hiatus in late 1974. Up until this show, save for one show in Reno, the band had not played outside of California.
Poco: Poco, an excellent if not quite headlining band, was now a four-piece, featuring guitarists Paul Cotton and Rusty Young, bassist Tim Schmidt and drummer George Grantham (everyone sang). Their current album Head Over Heels (ABC Records, July 75) had just been released.
Slade: Slade was an English "Glam" hard rock group, managed by former Animals bassist and Hendrix manager Chas Chandler. Hugely popular in England, their mass appeal never translated to the United States. Nonetheless, Gene Simmons of Kiss cited them as a big influence, and Quiet Riot had huge hits with remakes of some Slade songs in the 1990s. However, the Courier Times reviewer singled out their music as "typical of...all the poorer aspects of rock music," which was a standard American response to the band.
Nils Lofgren: Guitarist/singer Nils Lofgren had played around the Northeast with his band Grin from 1969 to 1974, and he had also worked with Crazy Horse and Neil Young. He had just released his first solo album (on A&M).
Mahogany Rush: Mahogany Rush was a Canadian power trio led by guitarist Frank Marino. I saw them a few months before this (at Winterland), and I can assert that despite all protestation to the country, Marino sounded like a Hendrix knock-off. That being said, it was pretty enjoyable. Their current album was probably Strange Universe.
Hootchie Kootch: Hootchie Kootch was a local band.
note: the excellent Poco site has an ad featuring Ambrosia instead of Mahogany Rush.

Notes on the venue
Auto races at the New Jersey State Fairgrounds near Trenton had been held as early as 1900, and continuous racing began in 1912. A new oval dirt track was opened in 1946, and it was paved in 1957. It was a regular stop on the Indy Car circuit in the 1960s, where stars like AJ Foyt and Parnelli Jones raced (Jim Clark drove Indy Cars there in 1963 and 1964). NASCAR raced there with some regularity from 1967 to 1974, and Richard Petty won three Grand National Events.

The Allman Brothers Band headlined a huge show on October 7, 1973. Apparently over 60,000 attended and the concert security was completely overwhelmed, ending outdoor concerts there until the Aerosmith event.

The race track closed in 1980, and the Fairgrounds closed three years later. The site is now a huge outdoor museum called Grounds For Sculpture.


  1. Haha... i was at the October 7, 1973 Allman show, Wet Willie and James Montgomery Blues Band.... It was my first concert ever at the age of 12; there were indeed riots, hells angels riding around the race track, people on the roof of the wooden grandstand throwing bottles. Riot cops went up there and there was a huge fight on the roof. Chunks of the roof falling on us in the grandstand. The Allmans were great that day, but i can see how it was the last straw for shows there.

  2. Watching Aerosmith on Bio and they showed a photo that looked familiar to me, S Tyler next to a chain link security fence at an outdoor show. A lil' Net research (Hollow Moon Productions/NJ/70's) led me to this post. I was at this show as a local Mercer County 17 year old and remember the mayhem well. Also was at the Allman's show John refers to in 73', my 1st outdoor anything goes show, and a A Bros. junkie at the time. John's description is very accurate and that Brothers & Sisters album tour for the A Bros was outstanding, saw them twice Xmas week @the Spectrum/Philly. Hollow Moon Prod., who put on the Aerosmith show disaster, was out of business soon after if I remember correctly. They limited ticket sales so we all went over or through the fencing, it wasn't difficult. Thanks for the memories!

  3. I went to that festival to see Kingfish. What a crazy day.

  4. I attended the 1975 Aerosmith concert in Trenton, NJ. It sprinkled rain on and off all day and kept making the speakers crackle. Aerosmith was the last band on stage that day. It was awesome! Yes, the drugs were flying around and several people were medivacked out. One the the bands announced to the crowd to beware of the bad acid going around. 1975 was a great year for concerts!

  5. i attended this show after overhearing about it between sets at the dead's great american music hall in s.f. show not long before this. we left before aerosmith since we were not fans and were there for kingfish mostly.

    1. davmar77, was Kingfish added to the bill late or something, or were you just not aware of it? I can see it was advertised in the paper (at least in Bucks County, anyway), but its always hard to tell from a distance how much publicity a show got.

      You were probably the only person there who heard about it in San Francisco.

    2. i lived on long island but had been on vacation out west so i didn't know anything about the show at all prior to hearing it being discussed at the great american music hall.

  6. I was there as a young 14 year old teenager and ended up getting free admission with the gate crashers.
    I remember the bottle throwing and the attempts by the Hollow Moon security to keep the crashers out with bats.
    One scene I remember clearly is looking through one of the rear doors of the south grandstand building. I saw two Hamilton township policemen beating on some long haired dude with their nightsticks. They were merciless!! He looked only about 18 or 19 years old, he didn't seem to be fighting back.
    The lakes in the middle of the race track were full of people swimming and topless girls...too much for a kid to be experiencing...what a time!!

  7. I was at this show. All these years I thought it was Foghat, not Areosmith. Aerosmith was really loud!

  8. I was from the Philly western suburbs. I went to the show to see Kingfish. I had no idea who Aerosmith was or any of the other bands. I couldn't believe that Kingfish wasn't the headliner. There was no terminology "Heavy Metal" yet as far as I know. There were lots of loud nitrous tanks. There was a small concrete wall not far from the stage. Many people left after Kingfish and the crowd thinned out. We hung around for almost all of Aerosmith and heard the end as we were walking to our car. I would love to hear this again. I was searching the internet to see if this was up on archive or anywhere!

    1. Frank, thanks for this. Your comments does remind of the fact that because of the way radio worked back in the day, you often didn't know what bands sounded like. In 1975, for example (I was on the West Coast) I had heard of Aerosmith but literally had no idea what they sounded like or who their fans were.

  9. Went there with a bunch of friends , got a bad deal on some acid . Good music !! Never will forget that concert !!

  10. I as at this show also but do not remember the gate crashers. I went to see Aerosmith but when Kingfish came on, I knew my taste in music would change. I became a Deadhead and not have not looked back after 40 years.

    1. Alan, by a strange coincidence I happened to be at the State Fairgounds site yesterday (now the museum Grounds For Sculpture). Do you recall where the stage was located, relative to the racetrack? At the front, near the pits and the Fairgrounds building, or at the backstretch of the track at the rear of the grounds?